Now, the situation is a bit more complicated than just that — he has paid some of his bills, and he’s not the only candidate who has stiffed a city for law-enforcement costs incurred when they host a rally. But what makes the Trump campaign different is multi-faceted:
- He’s not just a candidate, he’s the president, which makes his security demands much higher and more complex;
- He never really stopped being in campaign mode — he filed for re-election the day after his inauguration and has continued to hold rallies regularly over the past three years;
- His rallies precipitate an uptick in violent crime that isn’t seen with any other candidate; and
- The sheer scale of what he owes dwarfs every other campaign. Over the course of his campaign and presidency, he’s racked up at least $841,219 in unpaid costs from cities from Spokane, Washington, to Burlington, Vermont — and some $9 million in D.C. alone.
In response to this, some cities, like Orlando, are demanding the Trump campaign pay their costs up front.
The heart of the problem is that there is no rule or law that presidential candidates — or presidents — must reimburse municipalities for costs incurred by their visits. On the other hand, city police departments are essentially mandated to cooperate with the Secret Service when the president comes to their town.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to hold his rallies, and the cities who host them often find themselves holding the bag when it comes to the security costs.
So, what’s the big deal? you might ask. The cops are still there the next day. They still gas up their cruisers and arrest bad guys. What difference does a few thousand dollars make?
The big deal is that when scarce resources — i.e., dollars — are siphoned away from law enforcement by these events, criminals can walk free.
The most obvious example of this is the national backlog of untested rape kits. There are many factors that go into creating this backlog, but the undisputed fact is that testing rape kits costs money — between $1,000 and $1,500 each, to be exact. Trump’s $841,000 in unpaid bills could have paid for at least 560 rape kits to be tested. The longer each kit sits on a shelf, the longer that rapist walks free — potentially victimizing even more women.
But rape kits aren’t the only kinds of forensic evidence crime labs process. DNA from blood, hair, saliva, and other cells found at crime scenes and on evidence are vital to finding and convicting all kinds of violent criminals. But once again, without the resources to test these samples, they sit in the evidence room gathering dust while murderers and other criminals walk free.
And those aren’t the only ways a lack of resources can stymie law enforcement. Particularly complex cases — such as serial killers — require more staff working longer hours to solve. If a city police department’s budget is strained, they might not be able to assign enough detectives, or allow them to work enough hours, to catch the perpetrator as quickly — meaning more people will die.
This is no abstract accounting argument. When law enforcement has its resources siphoned off and not reimbursed, someone, somewhere, will have to pay. I, for one, would rather have that payment be in the form of a check, and not in victims’ blood.